Following the worst season in program history, former CSU women’s basketball coach Jen Warden was fired last week. On that same day, athletic director Paul Kowalczyk announced that Kristen Holt, a former Rams assistant, will replace Warden next year. The Collegian caught up with Holt Tuesday to discuss the future of the women’s team.
Q: Growing up in Ohio, were you a Bobcat or Buckeye fan?
A: Well, honestly, I was a Buckeye fan, just because they’re the bigger school than Ohio University, but I quickly became a Bobcat fan.
Q: Why did you leave Wichita State for CSU?
A: I had been to CSU before when teams I had coached came here to play and I was just really impressed with Fort Collins and the campus and area and I just felt, as the recruiting coordinator, that it would just be a neat place to be to recruit to. Also I was wanting to move up in the profession. I hadn’t been a recruiting coordinator before so that’s why I chose to come.
Q: What’s your favorite personal basketball memory?
A: It has to be winning the state championship in Ohio my senior year in 1987. Since then, when we beat number 12 Utah, that was awesome. I had never been associated with a team who had defeated an opponent that was ranked that high. Also, when I was at Radford University, we won our (conference) and played Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Q: Why was former assistant coach Randie Wirt released on Monday?
A: I’m gonna keep that conversation between she and I private. I haven’t discussed those issues even with the team. She did a lot for this program and university during the time she was here and it was just a decision I felt that was in the best interest of where we’re gonna go.
Q: Will assistant coach Dick Lien be retained?
Q: Have you put any more thought toward who will join the staff?
A: I am in the process of doing phone interviews right now. I’m going to the Final Four this weekend and I’ll have the opportunity to meet a lot of people there and will be interviewing people there as well. I have two positions to fill so hopefully I will have on filled in the next couple of weeks and another shortly after. They’re both important positions and they both have to recruit, so that’s kind of what I am looking for.
Q: Will any players from last year’s team be leaving the program?
A: We’re still trying to make those decisions. I’m having individual meetings with them – doing most of those this week. I feel, for the most part, we’re going to have the same team, same returners back, but I want to make sure that they are comfortable with the coaching change and that they’re committed to doing what we want to do.
Q: How is recruiting looking for next season?
A: Good, we’ve got a couple of people we going to sign in the late signing period, which signing day is April 16. The person we signed in the early signing period is still coming and committed, she’s from Silver Creek High School (forward Meghan Heimstra) and we’re excited to get her, but we still have some recruiting to do for this next year.
Q: How do you see the program looking next season?
A: We definitely have some things that need to be worked on and changed. Obviously this past season that we had wasn’t what we all loved and enjoyed because we only won four games, but I think the positive of it was that we kept improving and in the end won those games in the tournament. I just really think that wasn’t a fluke and that we can build from that and I think our players are going to be energized for next year; I’m hoping they work hard this summer because that’s where you catch up to other teams. Obviously there are going to be changes in the way we do things because I’m not gonna coach the same way coach Warden did. But it’s a change for everyone and hopefully a fresh, new, start that makes a big difference.
Q: Do you think an NIT berth is a realistic goal for next season?
A: You just never know, it depends on how much the kids buy in and work at it. Anything’s possible. Who would have said we would have beat the number 12 team in the nation? So it’s something we have to do on a consistent basis.
Q: What playbook changes are you looking to make for next season?
A: We’ll probably spend a lot of time on defense, not that we won’t focus on our offense, it’s something I intend to do. I tend to like motion offenses where they’re not as scoutable, but I like to throw in sets and I like to throw in structured continuity offenses. I like to really work on the break and scoring easy baskets in transition. So I hope we can kind of pick up the tempo a little bit.
Q: Do you think you’ll run as much zone defense as CSU did this year?
A: I would tend to say no, but it kind of depends on what our team looks like for next year and once I start working with them. I know I’ve been a part of this team so people say “what do you have to work with, you know what you have,” but we don’t know for sure who we’re gonna have and going into next year with the new kids that we’re adding, it can change the way you run a team.
Sports writer Matt L. Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.